Never Forget

Never Forget is not what we are told. We are to forgive and forget. That lives alongside, “Aquellos que no pueden recordar el pasado están condenados a repetirlo.” Third, to understand Christ, to grock this 2,000 year old movement of dissident Jews, you have to understand two things. The first is our history. The Bible makes no sense at all without knowing the history of it. The second is that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth is a deeply political movement. The bible is a political document. Our commissioning narrative is of three political dissidents martyred by Rome for crimes against Caesar and Judaism. To denude Christians of politics is to willfully deny the reason our movement started. The Jews wanted a revolution to overthrow Caesar. Jesus and his followers fomented a revolution within Judaism that continues today. No history and all of it is utter nonsense.

Some tails wishing to wag big dogs want to us to forget particular narratives in favor of their own. They stomp and shout in circles around memorials to the Confederate Army and insist that all symbols of the Civil War be removed from public view. History must be purified of the bloody stains left on it by White People.

So, by that premise, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery is a stain on the national narrative that ought to be erased. Exhume the confederate soldiers buried there burn their bones. Every gravestone ground up into gravel for concrete to build housing and factories for the peepul. Collective farms can be made on the recovered land after the cemetery is destroyed.

Once forgotten, history can be repeated. Once the memorials and monuments are gone it becomes possible to pretend that the dark days didn’t happen. We will have a pure history correct in its details. There never was a Civil War. A peepul’s paradise can exist where the bitter memory of the War for States Rights once stood. The story can be killed because the tangible symbols of it are replaced by utopian land redistribution schemes. Things will be better once the story is dead.

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New Orleans Robert E Lee statue never forget

Further, these same tails foment a zealous nationalism that justifies violence and discrimination against their enemies. White People are innately racist and evil. White People stole land from brown people. Steal the land back and give it to designated brown people based on need. Every WASP oppresses somebody simply by being alive. The country will be better after we cleanse ourselves of WASPs. So, rinse repeat the genocide and turn the world deep brown.

The City of New Orleans recently removed the statues of General Robert E Lee and others. Charlottesville is considering similar measures to remove the statues of Civil War luminaries. If we don’t have to look at the symbols of slavery then somehow that will accomplish the goals of those who still carry angst because their ancestors suffered evil at the hands of White People.

Next, I know I am repeating myself. I am not the first to say this either. Those who nourish their angst for the sins of others keep themselves in pain. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is power in compassion. This is some old blah, blah, blah. You know this. And yet we still have those who claim it isn’t over, that they are owed their pound of flesh.

Auschwitz never forget

Never Forget

We must forgive. We must also never forget. Auschwitz-Berkenau must remain standing. Here in the South I want us to build memorials and monuments to our history. Richmond’s Lumpkins Jail is a parking lot today. We should rebuild it as a memorial so we don’t forget.

There have been purges throughout history. 秦始皇 through genocide and massive destruction of extant books, attempted to have history begin with him. Though he was successful some knowledge of Chinese history predating his dynasty survived. Words and story have an immortality difficult to suppress. The monuments may be gone but the memories and stories survive.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attempt to purify China. Mao sought to bleed out capitalism so that nothing remained save for the revolution. It was a decade of brutal persecution that crippled China. As I listen to the Black Lives Matter folk and other nationalist movements among brown people I can’t help but hear an ache for an American Cultural Revolution to purify us of our WASP oppressors. We can begin in the South with the monuments remembering the War for States Rights.

In Praise of the Lowly

My Jesus was a no-account carpenter born in Bethlehem and hailed from Nazareth. He was the bastard child of Joseph and Mary. Everything we tell of his life is a farce of the Holy Roman Emperor. There were many before him and many since who died at the hands of genocidal kings. Their stories are forgotten. Jesus of Nazareth is remembered. His martyrdom is a cornerstone of our Reformed faith.

If we did as many suggest, and set about removing all traces of art remembering Christ we may make some headway at erasing him from history. Christians were a dissident Jewish rebellion against the Hebrew church and Rome for over 400 years. The mightiest empire in the world at that time tried to destroy us, to wipe the memory of Christ clean. Jesus must be forgotten. He is remembered. Rome fell, the church remains.

Immortal Story

Killing words is much harder than killing people. Story outlives genocide. 秦始 failed to destroy the words so we have 道德經 from the memories of those who followed it and survived. Mao’s genocidal attempt at making a purely Communist China lasted a decade. Mao died, communism has been sullied by capitalism. Where the virulent weed of capitalism has taken seed it has exploded the wealth of those infected by it. After all that there are Jews in Germany. That went well.

Never Forget

Finally, I want us to remember. I want the ache of what was done to stay so we remember why we must continue to forgive. Lucas 6:27, “Pero a ustedes que me escuchan les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, hagan bien a quienes los odian” means nothing if we have erased the memory of why someone is an enemy to us. Instead of taking the Confederate Monuments down we ought to restore Lumpkins Jail and other sites so the whole story is remembered.

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Akio

Akio creates a problem for me. He was born fucked. Two addict parents self-medicating to cope with a buzzing swarm of mental issues. Generations of living on the dole. Akio is an addict. Depending on his mood, he feels either schizophrenic, anxious or depressed. He is homeless, in his first year out of jail, and surviving by being a hobosexual for a string of women.

Akio Winston

Survive

The survival technique is a bastard instance of the Oedipus complex. He wants  a woman who will mother him, marry him, not trouble him too much, and sympathize when the voices in his head say he needs to piss on the statue of Robert E Lee. I count seven attempts at being Oedipus. The current bae is pregnant and both of them say they are staying together. She says she can rescue him from his troubled past. I dunno.

The bae called a shelter program home until a well meaning Churchianitan woman rescued her. The brand is familiar: non-denominational, strong on virtue signal and evangelism, weak on missions and follow-through. Things were good when it was one Churchianitan woman doing a solid for the bae.

Add Akio and things went south. The woman is captive in her own home. Let me explain before you go calling the cops. Churchianitan is wheelchair bound and needs help getting up and down the stairs of her two story condominium. The bae is a sometimes nursing student when she isn’t stoned. Churchianitan is on prescription Oxycodone. Add Akio and the occupation of the house is feeding monkeys. I’m waiting for the phone call telling me that one or more of the three is hospitalized, incarcerated or toe-tagged.

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Last week Akio and the bae fought. She blames him. He blames her. The apology was underwhelming. At least one wall has holes in it. The flat-screen TV exploded after Akio punched it. One corner of the kitchen floor has scorch marks and smoke damage from a phone thrown in anger. There is no food in the house. Everything that could be stolen and sold is gone. A good deed thoroughly punished.

Your miseries cease being an excuse somewhere mid-twenties. Akio had it bad. I get that. He is one of many who ate an abundance of bitterness. The bitterness eaten by him does not excuse away his continuance of the life in spite of escalating negative consequences. Nor are we obligated to him because his portion was so large. His day when his blues justified his behavior have passed. It is no longer his fate at the wheel of his life, it is him.

Akio answered his fate by achieving early success as a drug dealer. We teach young black men that the only acceptable roles for them are sports, entertainment, crime or indentured servitude to crackers. Akio is tall enough to be dominant on the basketball court. Like many his age he believes himself to be a rap singer. The only trope he didn’t take up is indentured servitude. His greatest success was selling crack cocaine.

Five and six. The other approved path is college, a white collar career, a woman, kids, a mortgage, and so on for the next sixty years. It is the path well traveled Frost and I did not take. Akio is too messed up to make it work. Six is some low rent blue collar jobs and one more plebian tragedy.

Failure to Thrive

Behind Akio is a trail of well-meaning Churchianitans who tried to turn the course of his life. All have failed. Akio still gets high, still sells weed and cocaine, still finds willing women who help him try again to marry his mother and murder his father. He has not changed.

This is the problem Akio creates. All the usual racist tropes about why young black men self-limit don’t explain Akio. Everything usual that can be done to get him to change his ways has been done. He remains the same. It is easy to yell at the snowflakes on campus who have privilege and abuse it by trashing the school and enforcing an orthodoxy of resentment. Their crayons, blankets, low-lighting, soft music, and strict rules about what can and cannot be spoken within safe-spaces are easy targets. Yelling at Akio? About what? Many have yelled at him. He is still doing himself.

I wish it were that easy. A strong fatherly lecture about the deadly course of his life would bring about the epiphany we all want for him. It isn’t so easy. Addicts have to die to their old life before they can live the new one. Said death hurts. If the addiction is deep enough the death is sometimes actual.

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Addicts are not flawed nor stupid nor weak. To be an addict requires tremendous strength and intelligence. Addicts consume taboo habits they buy on the black market under threat of arrest or violence. Drug dealers are remarkable business people because they cannot write down anything they do. It all has to be remembered even while being stoned or drunk. You can’t have a permanent location selling something illegal. The business must thrive in spite of a lack of place. A good drug dealer is a remarkable and perishable thing. Addicts survive things that would kill someone weaker.

Maybe I could explain Akio in terms of his past–addict parents then foster care then adoption late in childhood, an ancestral legacy of criminal life, all the tropes about living on welfare in public housing. All of that is a cliche so common you wonder if it isn’t just lies. Is the sorry story just a hustle to get more? Maybe. Only Akio really knows.

Maybe the cause is us. Boomers did such an awesome job insulating our kids from the slings and arrows of outrageous first world life that they never learned how to cope with misery. We are able to ingest drugs to shut down our lives and sustain the bubble we believe is a right. We don’t have to suffer in this place and time. Every whim is available to anyone that seeks it. Pursuing the seven deadly sins as a bucket list is possible and perhaps, worthwhile.

Monkey Hungry

His past does not explain him. Nor does his residence in a first world city and time. Yes, he was born fucked. Yes, his single score of life featured a cornucopia of bitterness. No one taught him how to be resilient because it isn’t necessary when cocaine, heroin, codeine and much more can protect you. That is the hand life dealt to him. It is not, ipso facto, his fate. He is old enough to have his fate in his hands. His monkey can be starved out of Akio’s life.

Akio’s monkey would eat me if it could. It ate the Churchianitan. He recurs in my life, eats a piece of me, then gets angry because I am not enough. Which . . . actually . . . is a good thing.

I don’t like strays​ or damsels in distress. There is an alley cat living under my shed. Were I someone else that cat would join me in my house. I am not someone else. The neighbor adopted the cat and got him to a vet who got him healthy. Once healthy the cat tore up a couch because it made such a nice scratching post. I saw the couch on the curb last month. I’m not unsympathetic to the fate of the alley cat. He is staying outside. Akio wants more of me and disappears when I won’t give it. Fine.

The Tao 道教 of Akio

Nothing in my past prepares me for him. Therapy? He does that. Social Services? They signed him up for a crazy check and a SNAP card. Section 8? He got public housing and used it to consume bae #6. #6 put him out of his own public housing apartment. All that I know for getting one’s shit together doesn’t move the needle for Akio.

I love introspective conversations about why I am a hot mess. I’ll wrestle the great questions with you: what is my purpose? Why was I born? Is God a Loving God? Why do bad things happen to good people. Akio is occupied with finding his next meal. A daily goal is to get through it without bullet holes. The merits of Socrates compared to Gampopa? He ain’t got time for that. Mercy is a dollar menu cheeseburger.

I have books in me. My gift to him is words. He can’t eat words nor get high with them. They are useful as tools for getting sex. Words as an end unto themselves are foreign to him. He asks me how to spend the night inside and I answer him with Emily Dickinson. We are from completely different worlds.

The True Road 真道

He aged out of the window where blame can be assigned and a responsible party held accountable. It’s on him. All I can do is watch him die through repetitions of new bae, a honeymoon spate, promises to make it stick this time, a period of calm then escalating negative consequences and predictable jail or hospital time.

There are thousands like him in the inner city. They are the intractable metastatic cancer treated with Uncle Sam’s money for a century. I wish I had a solution for the problem he represents. The only thing I have is that his disease has to run its course. Whether it kills him and along the way takes out others with him is something only time will tell. Churchianitan is learning that rescuing him only feeds his monkey with her soul. I hope she puts him out soon. The boy is bad news.

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Cutting Deep

My buddy is soothing himself by trying to arm himself and his friends. He doesn’t want to die nor be invited to a memorial service for those dear to him. I get it. I don’t want to die either. But beyond a pistol and maybe a shotgun more weapons are just more weapons. They do not increase your ability to fight.

Our military makes our infantry hump 80-90 pounds of gear. There is so much wearable tech on them that they can’t really fight and use the tech they were asked to wear. The answer? Load on more tech. Our enemies walk on to the battlefield with a knife, an AK-47 and a pistol. They don’t wear visible body armor or helmets or any of the crap our guys suffer with. They can’t call in air support or cruise missiles. They kick our ass, repeatedly.

How do you fight an MRAP? Build an IED and get out of dodge. How do you fight a platoon of US Soldiers? Lay down overwhelming small arms fire for 15 minutes and then get the hell out of there. Why 15 minutes? It takes that long for air support to arrive. Simple analog scanner radios will give you enough chatter to piece together what we are saying to each other. Command and communications can be done with smart phones using Viber. Osama Bin-Laden communicated by courier who memorized the messages and drove on a scooter to different sites daily to transact messages. That simple tactic kept him alive for a while.

Musashi famously won duels with a wooden practice sword against steel wearing only a cotton kimono, a hakama and rice straw slippers. The other guys were dressed out in full Samurai kit. If more better kit were a difference maker why are the families of Musashi’s enemies the ones that lost kin?

But . . . us first worldies love our Hollywood ideas of war, of Star Wars Storm Troopers with 3D VR helmets and RoboCop sexy weapons. We want bad guys to be 100 foot tall transformers. Dusty sheep farmers in the poppy fields of Afghanistan are just the wrong trope. It can’t be that the guy getting drunk on local hooch in a hut beside a poppy field is a war-lord. That’s just not right. Worse, that he could be winning against our guys with just a bolt-action rifle and some stunning marksmanship, that’s wrong, plain wrong.

So, my buddy, seduced by Hollywood, is filling his life with tacticool. Worse, he is mailing tacticool to friends like me and pestering us because we haven’t been to the dollar store to by the latest AirSoft automagic pepper-ball gun with laser sights and robotic ammo maker included. That I haven’t bought a Maverick 88 shotgun yet is a problem for him. Sucks to be him.

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That’s one thing rattling about my heart. The next two happened together. I have made it to Boston to see my son for the last three years. I was there from Thursday night until last night. Before that on Wednesday while I was at work my pastor called. The middle-aged son of one of our elders was in jeopardy. His wife had thrown him out in a bipolar tantrum. He had gone the full-monty. Married her and worked for her Dad and lived in an income property owned by the Dad’s brother. Without the woman he had no job, without a job he couldn’t pay rent. Without paying rent he was ass-out. Everything he was and he had was with that woman. She put him out.

I planned on driving a cab on Thursday then getting on a plane after my shift. I didn’t have time to deal with a church member who had spent the night in a Sunday School classroom on a cot and had no place to go. But . . . I am that guy who has loudly boasted that if you need something, ask and I’ll do my best to help out. Plus, this was my pastor on the phone asking. Shit.

So, with trepidation I offered him a night staying with me but he had to be out before I left for Boston. He agreed. I proceeded with my plan, made the money I needed and realized I was out of time. I did not have time to get home, get packed, get myself to the airport and deal with an unexpected guest who had no place to stay. What to do?

A lot of us would never have let him stay to begin with. We have our own shit to deal with. We are busy, struggling, trying to make our way and keep our heads above water. Making a difference is a bonus. We would have ended the cab shift early and told the house-guest to git or there would be a cop-calling argument. I feared losing a few hours to an argument which would cause me to miss my flight and screw up a half-year of planning.

I don’t know about the God you worship but mine can be a pain in the ass. He took me at my word when I said I wanted to help. So . . . I’m still headed to my last fare for the day 15 minutes from where I was realizing I was out of time. I couldn’t deal with my houseguest. I let him in, though–for just one night, kind of. This sucked.

I made a choice. I had to. My flight was too soon and I valued my effort to put my trip to Boston together more than I valued tossing a new friend on to the street. I called my guest and explained that I didn’t have time for him so he was welcome to stay until I got back. So . . . he stayed and I went to Boston. A running narrative in my head all weekend was a worry as to what I’d find when I got back. If it was RayRoberta Bob I’d come home to alien puke and an epic post beer-bash mess. This guy, my guest, was awesome. He cleaned my house for me. He left me a note letting me know he’d update me when he could. Awesome.

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Boston. This was a bucket list thing for me. Some years ago I attempted to take the Empress and my son to Disneyland. It was awful. We fought the whole weekend. I had set up everything through a web site using a debit card. On arrival in LAX I found that I could not rent a car using my debit card and had no credit cards. We were stuck at the airport. It didn’t get better. We did go to Disneyland but it was a miserable weekend with the Empress plucking last nerves I didn’t know existed. Deep within me was an unspoken oath that I’d pull off a fly/hotel/car rental weekend some day.

Done. I flew JetBlue, stayed at Extended Stay America, a hotel chain the Empress and I stayed at when we first arrived in Virginia, and rented a Fiat 500x. This isn’t blog post worthy for a lot of my upper-middle class peers. It is what we do. For me it was a victory. Planning for this started two months ago with zero money saved for it. So, as I am capable of doing and kind of dislike doing, I used my talent for making things work out to git-er-done. Tim and I squeezed in some quality time, were able to talk about stuff he’s been stuffing, and eat Pho in Boston’s Chinatown among other things. Bedford’s H-Market is awesome. It’s food court is good. Worth a trip.

It’s Monday. The trip was draining. I’ve enjoyed having today to blog, eat, sleep and do chores before heading back to my cube-rat life whacking computers. I know those stories too. The ones where the family black sheep dies a John Doe in a public hospital leaving a legacy of empties and regrets. Some would say that’s what always happens. The paternal, “get it together or you’ll end up like that guy.” I am that guy. I took the road less traveled by and it has made all the difference.

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Hello 2017

I don’t have 1500 odd words on a single topic. I have a storm cloud of random thoughts buzzing around like knats on meth. So, this post will be a little (a lot) scattered. Your normally crazy-making, pugnacious blog posts will resume soon enough.

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We have been told for a century that we have no agency, we can’t do it ourselves, we must keep taking what pittance Pimp Daddy US deigns to grant us and praise him for his benevolence. We don’t need to burn down D.C. or anything that dramatic. Just move our commerce into the black market. Yes, some of us will get arrested for failing to pay taxes and such. That’s the cost of doing business in an authoritarian, socialist republic. Pimp Daddy US has never been able to completely shut down the extant black market so I don’t see him able to do so anytime soon. Self-reliance, the thing of 2017.

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These are the current cabinet departments under the Executive Branch: State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health & Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. 15 huge bureaucracies that have an enlightened self-interest in continued existence. In addition, there is the White House Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trade Representative, the Ambassador to the United Nations, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. 7 more bureaucracies that are treated like Cabinet level offices in the Executive Branch which also want to continue to get funding.

Congress has its own administrative organization feeding from the trough of Pimp Daddy US. You have to also add in the lobbyists, who are a hidden fifth element of the federal government. Much of the sausage making of governing this empire happens inside the offices of law firms lobbying on behalf of their clients. They provide the staff needed to write the laws, provide congress with the digests of the legislation written, advocate for the laws desired by their clients and provide cover for congressmen and senators who want to claim that the junket to the Turks and Caicos was a working one. We won’t be able to do much with the licentious relations happening on K-Street. Free speech, etc. There are things we can do, though.

We are a multi-trillion dollar economy. We are one of the wealthiest and largest empires in history. It takes a government of a certain size to run this massive empire we have made. That said, we have built an unwieldy and ineffective bureaucracy in the Executive Branch that has become a tail eating serpent. It no longer exists to serve the President or us. It exists to serve itself and to grow. We will not fix our present malaise unless we cut this cancer on the republic down to size. So, if I were king (no danger of that), I’d do several things. First, day one,shut the government down for a hundred days. Essential services like Defense and Homeland Security would stay in operation. Everything else, though, would be shuttered. All Executive orders would be suspended pending review. Next, these cabinet offices would be kept: State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Commerce, Transportation, Homeland Security, White House Chief of Staff, Office of Management and Budget. The others would be shut down over two years. The work they do would be turned over to private, non-profit entities with supporting law and/or regulation through the Attorney General to ensure they behave themselves. These entities would not receive federal funding.

Dumpf campaigned on “Drain the Swamp”. The first president to take a serious whack at the bloated fourth branch of the government will get crucified by the press and those with a vested interest in sustaining it. The opposition will unleash all the political dirty tricks they have. It will be a fight for power unlike anything we have seen since the Civil War. If that president survives the fight and manages to eliminate the Cabinet departments I’d like to see gone it will have the effect of taking money out of Congress’ hands and out of the kitty of any following President, maybe. Anything done on an Executive Order can be reversed by succeeding Presidents. Part of the victory will be to tie the hands of any successors so that putting back the eliminated Cabinet Departments will be too politically expensive. Swamp drained. Power in Washington reduced. Both good things.

I am not so naive as to believe that shrinking the Executive Branch will make the government less corrupt. Wealth and power are like water. They find their own level. In the absence of power vacated by the Executive Branch something will step up to fill the void. We’ve had our century of feeding on Pimp Daddy US’s benevolence. Government is already corrupt. I’d like to try allowing that corruption to go somewhere else. Gone out of the White House maybe we can find a better battlefield on which to fight it to the death.

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I am reading James O. Hannay’s, “The Wisdom of the Desert”. Holy Crap! We are a bunch of glutinous wussies. I keep talking about living on less, devoting a whole blog post (Money) to it recently. I haven’t changed my habits. I still fuss over finding an afternoon at Starbucks on one cup of coffee to be too expensive. Will I follow through in 2017? The new year is 2 days old. We have 363 more days to see if I do.

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Ray RobertaBob’s rules to live by:

  1. Lidera con compasión y misericordia. Solamente después de que su encuentro con alguien desafíe su opción para comenzar con la compasión usted encuentra maneras de limitar creativamente su misericordia hacia ellos. Incluso entonces, considere a los monjes y su voluntad de sufrir más allá de lo que la mayoría de la gente consideraría sana.
  2. El perdón te hace libre.
  3. Constantemente pregunte si sus elecciones actuales le acercan a su deidad o interfieren con su relación con su deidad. Todo lo que te aleje de una relación sana con tu deidad debe dejar tu vida.
  4. Un poco de miseria es bueno para el alma. Algunos de lo que quieres sólo pueden venir a través de la lucha.
  5. El rey no es tu papá de azúcar ni tu amigo. Deja de esperar que él te cuide.
  6. La sabiduría comienza con parientes y amigos. Amad a vuestros parientes, amigos y enemigos por igual.
  7. La forma en que usted califica para ser servido es servir a otra persona.

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That’s pretty much it. I joined my local YMCA as 2016 neared an end. I’ve done 3 workouts so far. I’ve been on diabetes meds long enough to be addicted and overly tolerant of their effects. Bringing my disease under control will mean more addictive/damaging/powerful meds or a much more impactful change in habits. If you want to pray for something, pray that I’ll get it in gear and eat better/exercise more. I’ve said enough about my money dysfunction. It’s not a matter of more knowledge or more words. New Year’s Resolutions are slow-news-day filler. I am a writer. Talking about doing something isn’t the hard thing. It’s the follow through. Stay tuned. This story will play itself out over the next few years. Keep reading the blog to find out how it ends.

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Is There a God?

1 Corintios 2:14 “El que no tiene el Espíritu no acepta lo que procede del Espíritu de Dios, pues para él es locura. No puede entenderlo, porque hay que discernirlo espiritualmente.”

Right. An omniscient, omnipotent diety gives a shit about me. That’s not crazy. Nope. This diety won’t interfere with my choice to act out and will keep me from harm even though I am causing harm to myself and maybe others. He (?He? not s/he, s/him, or whatever?) What kind of patricarchical, obtuse, obscene, oppressive, phallic bullshit is this that God has to be a cis-guy? How do we know that this is all an illusion. That I am alone in my world, there are no others, what I percieve is wind, water, smoke, mirrors or all of that? Why would solipsism be false?

We have science. For 800 years the record has been corrected. Truth identified and documented. The farce of the bible exposed. Nietzsche is deep, “God is Dead.” Can we just get on with it and dispense with all this religious folly?

To which I have questions. What of women? Women are emotional, irrational, demanding, frustrating and desirous beyond reason. Some wicked demon made it such that a pleasure equal to eating demands that we deal with women. How sick is that?  Women are trouble. Yet, they are inescapable. More of the shitshow we arrived in. Woo. More questions. Are there exceptions to the law of causality? How does the quantum description of reality give rise to the reality we perceive?

I’m a bard, a bad one at that. I succeeded in my effort to avoid science as much as possible in college. My drunk alien RayRoberta Bob as god is almost plausable to me were it not a lifetime of indoctrination in the Reformed Tradition of the Presbyterian Church. So, I am going to add to my list of literary offenses and fail to answer the questions I posed.

My failure is not without purpose. First, I can’t begin to answer the physics questions I pose. I’m a stupid English major from a California State University in a time frame when degrees were being granted to proud C- students like myself. I graduated, but barely. Second, my world is absurd and mysterious. I’ve given up debating with God over whether the seven creation epochs were 7 Gregorian Calendar days of 24 hours each. The Bible and much more fails when made to survive an examination through Western scientific methods. I surrendered and in that surrender found my life to be better. God made the world in six phases and rested on the seventh. Good enough for me.

I mentioned Inger in a previous post. Inger, along with her self-serving approval of mincome, is annoyed with truth. The world consistently disobeys here desire for a modern, angular exegesis of reality. Absurdity and mystery piss her off. It should make sense. Everything should make sense. That it doesn’t is an affront to her stainless steel and concrete aesthetic.

Inger has not yet given up her fight with the universe. She means to win this one or die trying. So, all the kings men who have tried to put her back together in a less intense and more curved shape have failed. OCD much? Yeah.

I quit fighting my past. I am the dutiful first born son of a Presbyterian mother and Methodist father who became Presbyterian when he began dating my Mom. The older I get the more comfortable my same spot in the pews has become. Presbyterian Orthodoxy is an inescapable part of who I am.

So, my direct answer to the question of the existence of God is a reflexive, “yes.” No, it isn’t well-reasoned any more than my annual itches for an impossibly perfect Christmas that rattle about thanks to my Mom’s life-long fight with her sister for approval from their Mom. My belief in the existence of God is an act of faith, irrational and at odds with the world Inger wishes for. There are very few truly straight lines in my world.

Nothing I say can convince you of the existence of God. Either you agree he exists or you don’t. I’ve also lost my taste for winning the argument on this. I am quite happy in my little shack on a less traveled road in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My call is to serve regardless of the object of my service’s beliefs regarding God. Sometimes, when you are hungry, a hot meal is the best altar call possible.

Wikipedia has an article on the question here. Allow me to offer a chain of reasoning that is weak but for me, worthy. First, does love exist? If it does and God is love, then since love exists God must also exist. Further. Love is a verb and by inference we witness the existence of God in his actions demonstrating his love for us.

Love is a weak voice shouted down by all the dissonant noise alive in the lives of us who found comfort on the shores of the River Styx. Crazy is our normal. Altruism, true altruism, triggers suspicion for us. There has to be something behind it, some gain or motive, some desire that drives the act of kindness. We find it hard to believe that self-less acts of kindness are possible. That there could be a deity who would want us to experience altruism seems impossible.

Hebreos 4:1-2, “Cuidémonos, por tanto, no sea que, aunque la promesa de entrar en su reposo sigue vigente, alguno de ustedes parezca quedarse atrás.Porque a nosotros, lo mismo que a ellos, se nos ha anunciado la buena noticia; pero el mensaje que escucharon no les sirvió de nada, porque no se unieron en la fe a los que habían prestado atención a ese mensaje.”

Yet, we live insane lives so Inger’s desire for a rational world hits our ears as a dissonant minor chord. The God I know fights being contained in a bakelite trimmed stainless steel and concrete temple. Left alone Chernobyl is overrun by moss and plants that ruin its modern architecture. His world is at least fractal in its complexity. He made a world in which Quantum theory helps make the calculus work. Why not an insane, absurd God for this shitshow?

I believe God exists for completely selfish reasons. I grew up in a house infested with mental illness. I was tormented by anxiety from a very early age. Anger became my binky. I could have what I wanted because I was able to cajole my parents into indulging me. This lasted until 1979 or so and my initial years with my paternal grandmother. I returned to Earl Palmer and the First Presbyterian of Berkeley seeking answers. I wanted something of home, even as fucked up as home was. Earl is brilliant and patient with yungins. It was after many Sundays listening to him preach that my heart was softened and I was ready to let God in. I believe God exists because that belief keeps me sane.

Later in life, as I came to understand that my life was going to collapse again and I’d have to rebuild for the fourth time, I needed a family. I found that in St. Giles, in the Men’s Fellowship. Without them I’d either be dead or in prison. Along the way I’ve experienced miracles of grace and mercy that knit well with my Protestant upbringing.

I believe God exists for irrational reasons. I attribute some of my experiences to him against reasoned deduction. It is a knowledge I have always had and found comfort in. Mine is not the place to win the argument. Mine is to serve you anyway, to share and walk with you as we count down our sunrises until we are rowed to the far shore of the River Styx.

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Weapons Hot

Guns bother me. I don’t like it that there is a tool sold which is designed to kill. I get hunting. Venison is good eating. Our cops, military and security professionals are paid to face impossible choices and at times, take life. There are also people with a strong enough signal that they collect haters who go further than nasty words. They need guns. Everybody else? I wouldn’t ban guns. If you want one you should be able to buy one. But . . . my God asked me to love neighbor and enemy alike. So, the stinking turd of a question is, why own something made to facilitate killing?

You know this one: revenge is a dish best served cold. A variant: weapons purchases are best done coldly. If you have any dissonance, darkness, evil, or trouble in your heart, fix that. Fix it before you invest the time and money needed to buy a weapon. Definitely, if the reason for the weapon purchase is aggression against someone who has transgressed against you, don’t buy the weapon. As you stand at the counter choosing a weapon to purchase, you need to be clear and cold.

Weapons are tools for a deadly purpose. People are disturbingly talented at finding ways to hurt each other. Take away guns and we come up with something else to use with deadly intent. We should have the ability to buy and own a weapon. We also need to own the responsibility that comes with owning a tool made to kill.

Too, if you are still a boy in a mans body and want an impressive looking gun that signals your badassery, you are an idiot. We are a first world country. We are also a nation that is incredibly good at selling things. There is plenty you can spend your money on to signal what a stud muffin you are. It doesn’t have to be a gun. I won’t try to judge whether you need a .50 caliber pistol. If you want one, buy one. Just. . . I hope you aren’t buying it out of a need to make your mark among the guys. And if you do buy a .50 caliber pistol, put in the time and money at the range so you can actually hit what you are aiming at.

A little back story. My buddy, who moved to California just as I was finishing college, has decided that his safety is improved by owning a small armory. He’s already bought the dollar store version of the Mossberg 500 shotgun. Also on his shopping list is a .22 caliber long gun and a semi-automatic pistol. I think he’s an idiot for at least two reasons. First, in most self defense situations the distances are well within the range of a pistol. A shotgun could be a liability. Second, he’s doing this hot, out of fear.

I asked him about this post. His reason for starting with shotguns and low caliber long guns was ease of use. At close range a shotgun doesn’t need a skilled marksman to be effective. This is a comfort to him. And a .22 long gun has very little recoil and tends to be fairly accurate, again, relying on the weapon to compensate for poor marksmanship. Rather shitty reasons to own long guns. I hope he puts in the range time to keep up his skill with the weapons he owns.

A katana in the hands of a beginner is a reason to worry. The student and his weapon are a little too uncontrolled to be safe. It is why I was never allowed to practice with steel. Steel was for black belts after many years of repetitive practice with wood. Even then the black belts demonstrated with steel solo. I feel similarly about any gun in the hands of a poorly trained marksman. The marksman makes the gun more dangerous because of the low training effort and consequent poor skill.

It makes more sense to me that you would pick a weapon with the most utility given your needs. For me that is likely to be a semi-automatic pistol. Then, having made the choice you start with training and then maintain your skills through continued practice and training. Ownership should come at the end of an initial session of training. Everything you need to know about weapons can be learned at the range with a semi-automatic pistol. Master your primary weapon. After that, if you want other weapons and can buy them cold, have at it.

There are plenty who buy weapons, live long and go home to Jesus never firing a weapon in anger. For those that own weapons and enjoy them safely, good on you. I have no truck with your hobby. Y’all are not blog-post worthy. Us, the noisy and dissident, we are what generates content and posts like this one. It is us that need to check our narratives to explain why we want to own a weapon.

Self-defense. This one is tough for me. I’ve been a cab driver for almost 20 years. I’ve driven over 500,000 miles without endangering my passengers or being robbed. In all those miles I’ve never had a gun with me. The same behaviors which have gotten me to this point are what will continue to keep me safe. But . . . I am successful in a narrow circumstance where I’ve become skilled at staying safe. The world and the risks in it are way bigger than me. It happens that for some a weapon is needed for self-defense.

Just . . . after 5 years of training in Aiki Jujitsu and all those miles I can’t accept that your only option is a weapon. You have to be creative and smart when presented with a threat that could be shoot/don’t shoot. I’ve been through intense situations where a gun would have been an antagonizing addition. I got through them without a weapon. It can be done.

A small confession: I’ve been gun shopping. I looked at pistols at the counter at Cabella’s. The kid talking to me was in love with an off-brand .38 special revolver. I asked him about semi-automatic pistols and he showed me these made-in-north-korea knockoffs that were branded something like glok or smiss & wexxon. It was a short conversation.

Colonial Shooting Academy here in Henrico, VA was a more impressive experience. The guy talking to me was my age or so and really seemed to know his stuff. Felina was with me. I couldn’t get her to come over to my house for Halloween. I mentioned that I was going to window shop at Colonial Shooting and she was all about it. She had eyes for the Smith & Wesson 500. I thought she was stupid for liking it. The Shooting Academy guy showed me a couple Glocks. Nice weapons. The Glock 19 fit in my hand and felt good as I manipulated the slide and checked the magazine for rounds. His reason for recommending 9mm pistols was the price of ammo. Range ammo was really cheap and more deadly ammo was still inexpensive. He also said that ammunition makers have been working to improve 9mm ammo over other common sizes like .38 ACP.

Then Felina asked if we could put in some range time. I wasn’t ready for that. Felina can be a bit much. I rented a Glock 19 and she rented an AR-15 after I refused to buy range ammo ($4.00 for one round) for the 500. Whoa. Very tight groupings with the AR-15. She was scary good with the Glock.

I know a little about guns. I don’t know enough. I shot .22 rifles at summer camp as a Boy Scout. I had a British buddy in college who wanted to rent all the Hollywood guns–.44 magnum, 9mm Beretta, etc. We spent a couple hours murdering paper targets with guns he could not get at home. I shot a .22 Ruger competition pistol that was pretty easy to handle. Bigger than .38 caliber and I was a danger to myself and other people on the range. Plus, handling guns is an emotional thing for me. I quit shooting part way through the hour. My head was banging with the knowledge that these weapons were made to kill people.

That knowledge still bothers me. Both the Cabela’s visit and tonights visit to Colonial Shooting Academy were emotional experiences. Felina wasn’t helping. The sales guy at Colonial Shooting was a big help with her and with explaining things. Not sure knowing Felina is a fan-girl of big guns was reassuring. The sales guy had me at the Glock 19.

I wrote this last night while watching the final episode of Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X. I tossed and turned last night. There was a quote I stumbled across online commenting about the Glock 19 from a Latina woman. She spoke of having a love/fear relationship with men. A gun was power for her. Power she wanted to use against men who scared her. Unpacking that is probably more than 1500 words. Still, I wouldn’t want laws in place that were intended to prevent her from owing a gun and feeling safer.

Women, I hear some of you. The world is not safe for you. Felina Ramos has been in Biloxi for the last few months. Another guy, another misadventure with a man. The guy is photogenic and fabulously fem. When they rode with me the other night the body language was story worthy. She was cold to him, stiffly giving him affection while he was annoyingly yappy. After we dropped off Buddy, Felina filled me in. Buddy was starting to creep her out. They were over the initial hot & horny and starting to know each other on the dark days. He’d turned possessive and demanding of her attention. When they were out he’d get all happy when she made the drink orders and chose what to eat. Felina has dealt with that before.

That wasn’t it. A few nights ago in Biloxi a guy asked them for a dollar. They mumbled a refusal and he started following them, calling them names, insisting that they give him money. Buddy was as useful as a Vietnamese dong. He kept whimpering that they should just give him money. Felina had to confront the homeless guy. Buddy was ever appreciative and thankful.

Felina’s big issue is trust. She trusts no one. From jump, she assumes she is going to get hurt. It takes a lot for her to relax and feel safe. Felina has never done the responsible thing and gone to safety classes or legally gotten a permit to carry. Her range time happens off the radar. The point for me is that Felina isn’t so enamored of Buddy after having to save his ass.

I get it that some women come to decide that they way they are going to make their world safer is by owning a gun. I wanted to deviate from my theme a bit to acknowledge that weapons ownership can mean different things for women. Along with women needing agency, needing a voice in policy and law, they need safety. It’s #2 on Maslow’s hierarchy, pretty important. We shouldn’t get in the middle of the choice to own a weapon for women that choose to do so.

I can be at peace with owning a gun and its responsibilities for reasons similar to why I liked owning a katana. It is an accomplishment to practice marksmanship and become skilled. I started this with, gun purchases are best done cold. I’d rather join those who own and master what a weapon can do than live with fear and conflicted feelings about a tool made to kill. Maybe it’s not a more reasonable justification than my buddy’s who is afraid of a nebulous threat from left-wing zombies. He responded with Luke 22:36, “He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one“. Jesus said this on the night before his crucifixion along with telling Peter that he would betray him. I’m a poor bible scholar. Read all of Luke 22 to get a fuller understanding of my friend’s quote.

I’ll leave you with this: the highest form of swordsmanship is living so you don’t need a sword. You can’t achieve that jerking a protest sign up and down in a picket line shouting, “no more guns, no more wars!” Nor is your safety assured locked in a university study room designated a safe space with demanding rules declaring what is and isn’t safe behavior. My readers would take great delight in literally shitting on your term paper for women’s studies before setting off a string of lady fingers in the room. We are like that. Learn to fight and win. Master your weapon so you live free of the need for a weapon.

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Knowing You


The last question in the Explore God series was, “Can I know God personally?” There is no reasoned answer to this question. That said, nearly 500 years of Calvinist tradition says, yes, yes you can. With something like this, though, tradition and reason are not enough. You either feel it as a yes or you don’t.

First, our pastor Sarah Marsh, said this in her sermon. Next, my first reflex was to say, no you can’t know God personally. The God I know is a jealous god. He is uncompromising in his demand for surrender and devotion. If you want to know Jesus a lot of the life you have now is going to die. Remember, this is a god who launched a new kingdom by being martyred.

Another reason you can’t know God personally is modern science. Jesus is booga-booga-booga weird. We tell people that they have to die to live, to give to get, serve to be served, be a servant to lead. Being Christianity is living in a topsy-turvy world where Carol’s Wonderland is not strange. A lot of the Bible is starkly bonkers. Knowing God is the realm of the heart. If you try to bring empirical reasoning to understanding God your head will hurt. God isn’t reasonable. He is reliable. To know God you have to surrender some of that itch for utopia we get from my Puritan ancestors and some of that surety that through science we can understand how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Next, I was raised in the church. I’ve been saved longer than I’ve not been. I’m not perfect, far from it. Dig far enough back in this blog and you’ll find plenty that I have had to apologize for. I spent some of my youth accusing my Dad and the church of various high crimes and misdemeanors. For a time I knew God as a stern taskmaster who disapproved of me and my behavior. It hasn’t been that long since I surrendered deeply to God.

img_jesusWhich, sort of makes me the worst one to write about this. I already believe. I know God, know Jesus. It took me a while to come around to this. I was/am a fan of apologia, of criticism of the church. Damned hypocrites, look at them.

You are going to hear all the standard answers from ordained graduates of seminary. They studied hard and I applaud them for their hard work and consequent knowledge. Their answers are worthy. Mine is not. Mine is the answer of a cantankerous man who wasn’t always this devoted to God. Mine is a lifelong relationship that has swelled and faded. God never stopped knowing me nor loving me. It is I that have shunned him at times then come home like a repentant prodigal son.

When, for the first time in my twenties I quieted down and started to listen, God had some stuff for me to do. First, shut up. No, really, be quiet. Next, all my bluster about how no one is doing anything for that little kid I saw on TV growing up, the one staring up at the camera with big eyes, God said this, “You do it.” Me? Help? When I am a wretch? When I am the one entitled to being protected from my own hot mess, coddled and spoon fed. Yep, I am to do it. I and all the other hot messes that came to Jesus.

The creator of the Universe talks to me, to this hot mess. I hear voices, hear His voice. Crazy, right? Yep. I’ve heard him since the age of 14 when he appeared to me in a vision I had while praying at summer camp. Though, his voice isn’t the lovable, round Pappa I want him to be. He’s a carpenter. He’s short, brown-skinned, curly haired and a bit thick by modern standards. His language is rough. He knows me so when I try to game him it doesn’t take him long to checkmate me. He’s the one that was in my head cussing me out when I complained yet again that I was out of gas, out of money, out of cell-phone minutes, without even change for the parking meter. He was the one laughing at me when lately I tried to catch a kitten and failed in entertaining ways.

I can’t make you agree that you can know God personally. I can only tell you that I have come to count him as an intimate friend. Know this, I tried other ways of living. I tried to keep God out of my head. All those years of Sunday School, my baptism, catechism class and the many books I’ve read and still, there is no place like my usual spot on the left side of the sanctuary, toward the front, singing hymns badly and listening to Keith and Sarah and others talk about Jesus.

The third thing God asked of me is to work for change within the church. This means I had to sign up for the full program. I am responsible for my own worship, prayer, tithe, study and service. I have to show up. Beyond that, I have to participate. Beyond that I have to contribute. Beyond that I have to serve, to serve without hope of return or desired outcome. Out of these five responsibilities I have built my relationship to God, to Jesus, to know Him. And out of *that* I can become a voice for change within the church.

Husbands know this. Many times the sexiest thing a man can do for his wife is dishes. Families are hot beds of chaos and strife. The kids are taxing, the workload withering, the ways it fails constant and numerous. Into that a guy tries to hug her and ask for a little affection. One more demand of her, one more too much. But, he’s entitled, right? It’s all over the Bible, that guys come first, get served, helped by their wives. Uhm, actually . . . no. Knowing God is a kind of death to all that came before, all that binds us to the worries of the world. Dishes are the least of it. And . . . if you remember, it is Adam that is cleaved to Eve and her family, not the other way around.

God is in some ways, a jealous husband and we are his bride. He demands that we give and give and give and it just doesn’t seem to be fair. He is demanding, his people are hotbeds of chaos and strife. Church people are taxing, the commitment withering, the ways that sin intrudes are constant and numerous. Into that arrives you, full of anguish and hope that this Jesus thing could work out for you, with your one more demand too much. Yet these Jesus people seem to be crazy in love with an absurd God. Either they are nuts (we are) or there is something to this God who does a reset by dying.

The central narrative, metaphor for life in Reformed faith is the cross. It is in death and resurrection that we find our knowledge of God and a life as a disciple of Christ. Our greatest heroes are those who made deep sacrifices, even unto death. So, I almost don’t want you to know God. You have to be ready for this. You have to risk your life to gain it. The prayer itself is trivial. Altar calls are ecstatic experiences for some. I worry about the commitment, the days after, the work of being in a relationship with God. All five of my responsibilities involve sacrifice of some sort. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to die on the cross to be reborn stripped naked and having to start over?

I’m really good at words. I’ve been in enough therapy, sat through enough Sunday School classes, that I can confess like the best. It’s all a front, though. My slings and arrows flown against the church accusing it of hypocrisy said a lot about my own life. God took me all the way to the street and to jail. He met me in my truck, out of gas, out of money, out of cell phone minutes, homeless, a convicted wife beater, in a phone call with a cocaine addict who wanted a ride to the grocery story. Boom.

If you are ready, cool. There are plenty who will welcome you and become your family in Christ as you live this new life. It doesn’t have to be me. Most Sundays you can find me in my usual spot, singing praise songs badly at St. Giles church. If you do choose me, beauty. We can walk together as we live out our promise to be a disciple of Christ.

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This That

I always wonder about people who insist that we exhume the dead, fill them with adrenaline and electro-shock so they are reanimated, for the purpose of having a satisfactory reckoning with them regarding all the ways they were evil to us. People pass through our lives and leave a mark. We hope that mark will be a source of joy. It isn’t always so. Some crash into our lives and hurt us. Some blindly generate insult or injury without being aware of the pain they generate. We can’t always have the greeting card, poignant conversation where they say all the words we wish for and make it all better. Sometimes we are left bleeding to fend for ourselves.

Ginny Webb 12-2010
Ginny Webb 12-2010

I got a call from my Dad last Wednesday that my Mom was refusing food. She’s 83 as of this post, has had dementia for a decade or so, suffers from heart disease, is a stroke victim, is diabetic, with limbs atrophied such that she is effectively paralyzed, has trouble swallowing, can no longer communicate in much more than either, “yes” or “no”, and has severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She obsessively chews on anything within reach. She chewed on herself until my Dad started giving her old towels to chew on. She requires full-time nursing care. She is moved from a rented hospital bed to a wheelchair each day by either a home-care nurse or my Dad. The woman that raised me, that did so much that is praiseworthy, has become an imbecile who passes the time chewing on old towels and watching reruns of “Dirty Jobs”.

I believe the woman that raised me is in there, trapped and unable to cross the divide created by the strokes she has suffered and the dementia. What a nightmare to be stuck inside a body that no longer does what you ask it to do. To be cognizant of the world yet unable to engage with it. Each time I visit I put on a brave face and hide my sorrow. It can’t be easy to be stuck in a husk of a body somewhere purgatorious (not a word, I know) on the living side of the river Styx. Sometimes it feels merciful to ask God to just call her home. Then I feel guilty for praying such an awful thing.

We all get to the end of our story. We reach those final days in the epilogue after we have slain the dragon and gained the boon. Our footsteps carry us nearer to our village where we will return with the prize in hand. We will pause and share a celebration at our victory then leave again to be forever spoken of in the past tense. The cowboy who wins the duel and then rides off into the sunset to his campfire and tent in the valley of the shadow of death.

My Mom is one of the good people. When she joins the immortals I’ll speak of her praises. This part of the story, before crossing the river, I’ll quietly leave unsaid. She’s won the battle, fought the good fight, and now, wounded, crawls off the battlefield slowly, too injured to make it to the medic and safety. She fought for her clients, for the right thing to do even when it defied the rules as a social worker for the State of New Jersey. She served as a volunteer at her church. She got to go to Honduras on one of those missions/tourist things where they built a church over a couple weeks. She did good.

Our family is normal. We have our share of confessional stories that could make a good chick-flick if they were ever written and filmed. At least one family member is stuck in a typical rut, “I need Mom to be healthy enough to have that hearts & violins, two boxes of Kleenex conversation where she says she loves me and apologizes for being such a bitch when I was a kid.” Remember how I’ve talked about story and how story informs our behavior? Yeah, that. I’ve got a feeling the truth of her bitchiness doesn’t quite match the story. Rent “Precious” from Google Play if you need a story about a horrible mother. In our family the Hallmark moment can’t happen because my Mom is as close to a vegetable as you can get without resuming room temperature.

Were I to go there, to dig into my little list of reasons why it’s my Mom’s fault, I could justify a rather tall drink of self-pity and self-righteous justification for all the ways I am a hot mess. I’d have Freud on my side. It’s stupid, though.

I’m past my mid-fifties as I type this. I haven’t been under my Mom’s roof for over a generation. I have a son of my own. I suffer from or benefit from the choices I make whether or not blame can be laid at the feet of my parents. Why would I embalm her so I can have her on my living room couch as an immortal reason for my miseries? Where would Ray(ro(bert))a sleep if I did? Yah, yah, he seems to do ok in his old short-bed F150. Still . . . Better to forgive and let my Mom be remembered for the ways in which she blessed those she counted as family and friends. Embalming fluid stinks worse than alien puke. Fun fact: Oxyclean works really good on alien puke. Just saying.

When the time comes to stand before my Mom’s friends and family and talk about her life I will sing her praises. These days, before that day, are hard. It’s hard to know if we are serving her best by still treating her many ailments. There are days when it feels like mercy to give her the wrong dose of pain medication and let her slip away. Other days the heart pines for some bit of answered prayer, of medical genius, that could heal her sickened body and she could tell me again what I needed to do to improve things and ask me to check in again in a week (social worker, remember?). I am conflicted as I type this. There doesn’t seem to be an easy right thing to do. Only these things: the woman that raised me is suffering and near death. My Dad is tired after so many years of being her primary care-taker. This story nears the shores of the river Styx. It is time for my Mom to cross the river and go home.

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You So Sadomasochistic

First Posted 28-Oct-2014

I may be repeating myself. It is something I noticed as an Americorp Volunteer at Boaz & Ruth. People who had been horribly abused as children sought out adult relationships with abusers. It was as if because of some unresolved business with God the evil of their parents drove them to carry it into their adult life as they sought partners. Children of drug addicts somehow found their greatest love in other addicts and drug dealers. I’ve learned of late that some of the crap I went through as a kid is an inheritance from my grandparents and perhaps further. Lovely.

shacklesI live in the capital of the South. Richmond, VA is one corner of the slave triangle. The other corners are London and the West African Coast. The wound on the soul of slavery is still felt deeply here. It still festers in the hearts of our ancestors, slave and slave owner. The abuse perpetuated was horrid. The inherited bitterness deep and hard to heal. “Why can’t you just get over it?” If you have been abused you know. It isn’t something you just get over. So much of your life is colored by the scars of the abuse. The physical wounds heal. The psychological wounds can be a chronic illness that is difficult, perhaps impossible to heal. You don’t just “get over it”.

We elected a black President. Good on us. He is not, as is popular to say in the conservative press, HRH Obama. But the way some of us have responded to him, the expectations we have placed on him, feel to me like slaves wanting to return to the plantation and shackle themselves to involuntary bondage and whippings. It feels like some of us are seeking from him the very sorts of behavior we despise because it hurt us so. I hope you are mad at those words. You should be. Obama needs to succeed as a president, as a man without regard to race. That his popularity is fading among some because he didn’t buy them a cell phone and a Cadillac should expose a flaw in the character of our culture. It should not be a metric of Obama’s performance as president. It should also reveal a need to continue to heal the wounds in our culture which drive us back to the destructive relationships we left.

That itch to seek justice from the sumbitch that abused us, just drives us back into the hell we so passionately say we never want to return to. The healing has to come from forgiveness and a healthy relationship to God. We need to leave our sumbitch alone. One more thing, though. I am saying we need to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. I’m not saying that we should forgo seeking appropriate justice. Choices need to have consequences. Folk that are behaving in a dissonant or damaging way need to be called to account. Most of the time this means involving the cops or other appropriate support. It’s not something we should do on our own.

This relates to Obama how? We have to stop electing politicians we elevate to demi-gods or kings. We have to stop putting them in power expecting them to stop abusing us, wrap us in material comfort, and attempt to fill the God sized hole with pleasures or things of this world. We have to get over the idea that a president is good or bad based on whether he buys us a Cadillac and a cell phone. Obama can’t do a lot of what we wanted him to do. We have to do it person by person, at the local level. That’s how we break the cycle of bitterness we have inherited.

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The Ukulele

First Posted 26-Dec-2014

I owe my Dad an apology, again. When I was a kid I was so pissed off at him for buying me a stupid ukulele. Four strings, sounded like crap, and was strung so I could finger chords with my right hand. I’m missing part of my left pinkie because of a fight over a girl with a childhood buddy–Chucky. Both of us lost the fight because the girl, on seeing us fight, thought we were both stupid and rejected each of us.


I owe my Dad an apology because back then I was dead sure no good music could ever come out of a miniature guitar with two missing strings that, worse, was strung wrong. I hated that thing because instead of helping me work out how to play a guitar or a violin with my overly short left pinkie he spent money on a dwarf guitar that was gimped like me. He bent the world to me rather than helping me strive to thrive in the world as it was. He, without words, labeled me as forever scarred, forever the guy who became handicapped in a fight over a stupid girl. The girl, now, is married with her own family. She’s not so stupid. Not then, not now. Chuckie I’ve lost track of. But, the things I learned from him and others I fought with as a kid, have become gifts. Instead of wearing my loss as a reason to pity me I’ve become proud of my too short, stupid pinkie. This is why I owe him an apology.

There are, if you look for them, more than a few videos from talented musicians who play incredible music with a stupid ukulele. They took on this dwarf guitar with missing strings and turned it into something amazing. So, my claim then, that no good music could ever come from a ukulele, was wrong. My angry words toward my Dad for trying to help, were wrong. I apologize for being cross with him. And I forgive him for just being a Dad who loved his kid enough to buy a ukulele that was strung so I could strum with my left hand.

Here’s the thing. We have the hand we are dealt. We have the circumstances we find ourselves in. Sometimes we can point to a cause & effect that chains together from things we have done to get us to the circumstances. Sometimes, boys fight and lose fingers. Other times, though, the randomness of the world, the possibility of harm, becomes the fact of harm and there is no clear cause & effect to chain together to explain why harm arrived in our lives. S*&t happened and now we are left to clean it up.

Waddy do, though? Build castles made of bubble wrap and adapted so no one has to strive to achieve anything? Claim that the correct ukulele is the one strung so you strum with your left hand? Build temples to our miseries and make sacrifices to demons & demigods who stoke the fires of resentment and longing for missing pinkies? Pine for the days before the pinkie was gone, when things were better, when maybe, in a different dimension, the girl chooses the boy with the too short pinkie to be her hero? Today?

No. You give the kid a ukulele and help him learn how to use his left hand, short pinkie and all, to play the thing. You walk him through the frustration and challenge of playing because you know that with time & effort, the dwarf guitar with two missing strings can me made to sing opera worthy of the Met. You walk through the frame of the front door instead of the missing walls and start figuring out how to live in the aftermath of the chaos unleashed by whatever disaster befell you.

I type about 45-50wpm. I struggled when I first started to learn to touch type because the mechanical typewriters required the keys to travel too far for me. These days, on my computer keyboard, I fly at my usual pace. 45wpm isn’t record setting fast. It is fast enough that I can transcribe conversations as I listen to them. It’s fast enough. I don’t have to look at the keys as I type. By all measures, I can touch type well. My pinkie is too short because some of it was lost in a fight over a girl. I can still type and unless I show you my finger, you probably don’t notice that it is about a half-inch shorter than normal.

So, I and the ukulele are both capable of beauty, even with some of my pinkie missing and the uke being too small and not having enough strings. Something to be happy about. Sorry, Dad, I had no idea you could make a gift out of a shortened pinkie and a dwarf guitar. Lest you doubt it, know this, you done/do good. I can appreciate that now.

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